Killer Gets Life Without Parole in Slaying of Mollie Tibbetts

Cristhian Bahena Rivera says nothing in Iowa courtroom as he's sentenced
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2021 5:00 PM CDT
Killer Gets Life Without Parole in Slaying of Mollie Tibbetts
Cristhian Bahena Rivera listens during his sentencing Monday at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool)

"You, and you alone, forever changed the lives of those who loved Mollie Tibbetts," a judge told Cristhian Bahena Rivera in an Iowa courtroom on Monday. "And for that, you and you alone will receive the following sentence." Judge Joel Yates then imposed a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, NBC reports. Bahena Rivera, 27, who was wearing a mask, expressed no emotion as he listened to the judge, and neither he nor his lawyers made a statement. He was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of Tibbetts, which brings a mandatory life sentence. Yates ordered Bahena Rivera, whose attempt to win a new trial was rejected earlier this month, taken immediately to a state corrections center, per ABC.

Tibbetts was a 20-year-old University of Iowa student when she disappeared while jogging in July 2018 near Brooklyn, Iowa, her hometown. A month later, Bahena Rivera led investigators to a cornfield where they found her remains. On Monday, Tibbetts' mother, Laura Calderwood, had a victim impact statement read to the court, per We Are Iowa, in which she described telling family members that her daughter's remains had been found. "Do you know what it's like Mr. Rivera to be woken up by your youngest son Scott, telling you the sheriff needs to talk to us?" the statement said. The hardest person to tell, Calderwood said, was the victim's grandmother.

Bahena Rivera, who was ordered to pay Tibbetts' family $150,000 in restitution, is an undocumented farmworker from Mexico. The case became caught up in the political debate over immigration when former President Trump and others blamed the killing on US immigration laws. Tibbetts' family argued that, with her father writing an op-ed in the Des Moines Register asking that she not be made a pawn in the anti-immigration cause. "Do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist," Rob Tibbetts wrote. (In his eulogy, Rob Tibbetts said his daughter is "nobody's victim.")

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